Last week, Justin and I were chit-chatting about legacy servers in MMORPGs when he said that Trion should really get moving on classic servers for RIFT. My first reaction was what, really, that game is way too young to need vanilla servers! But then I remembered playing on Ultima Online emulators within a year or two of launch. RIFT, which came out in 2011, isn’t exactly old, but it’s not brand-new either. It’s old enough to have weathered a lot of changes, some of which were probably wide-ranging and contentious enough to have created plenty of players who’d rather see them undone and the game returned to a more primordial state.
What’s the cut-off – or is there one? How old should an MMO be to consider classic servers? And if age isn’t the determining factor, what exactly is?
In the process of picking yourself up off of the floor following Friday’s announcement of World of Warcraft Classic at BlizzCon 2017? As your mind grapples with Blizzard’s surprise revelation of a legacy server project that will take players back to the vanilla era of World of Warcraft, you probably share the same questions and concerns that Eurogamer voiced in an interview at the convention.
Executive Producer J. Allen Brack was reluctant to give the publication any specifics on a timetable, saying that the project was just announced, only basic infrastructure is in place, and that the team is forming. He did confirm that Classic won’t be taking away any people or resources from the main MMO, as Blizzard is treating this as a separate game with its own dedicated team.
“Our goal is to recreate that classic 1-60 gameplay,” Brack said. “Some things changed as time went on, with different patches. How does that get manifested? That’s one of the outstanding questions. But yeah, the goal is to recreate that exact experience, for better or for worse.”
If you’re looking for the authentic classic MMO experience, shouldn’t a rough launch be part of it? That’s kind of the sour joke you hear being said concerning the start of EverQuest’s Agnarr progression server. Agnarr opened its doors yesterday to a crowd eager for a time-arrested experience, and yet was immediately besieged by crashes, broken character creation, zone lockouts, queues, and an allegedly rampant duping situation.
The dev team continued to post updates on the forums concerning some of the issues: “The enormous number of players attempting to create characters on Agnarr is straining our systems. We are currently managing the heavy load with a reduced maximum population cap, which we are increasing manually as players get through character creation and into the world.”
Blizzard’s J. Allen Brack has a post on the official forums tonight that ought to temper expectations players might have about World of Warcraft vanilla servers and a possible BlizzCon announcement.
“We’ve seen some talk among the community that you might be expecting to hear some news on legacy servers at BlizzCon,” he writes, “and we just wanted to take a moment to let you know that while we’re still discussing the possibility, we won’t have any updates to share on that until after the show.”
Earlier this month, pro-Legacy server representatives of the former Nostalrius emulator posted that BlizzCon marked “the golden occasion for [Blizzard] to announce [its] plan for legacy realms, and potentially fulfill the dreams of millions of fans over the world,.” The group insisted that Blizzard has “everything in [its] hands to fulfill the large community request for Legacy servers,” and then Nostalrius issued what appeared to be a threat: “[I]f Blizzard doesn’t make an announcement to honour their own core values, be sure that we will.”
The shutdown of the Nostalrius private server happened some time ago, but the debate it started hasn’t stopped, and today the World of Warcraft team has actually issued a statement in response to the server’s fans and others raising a clamor. If you were hoping for the announcement of a classic server, you will be disappointed, but the open letter from executive producer J. Allen Brack sheds light on both Blizzard’s thought process and what the company is both capable and willing to do for the classic crowd.
Why not just let Nostalrius continue the way it was? The honest answer is, failure to protect against intellectual property infringement would damage Blizzard’s rights. This applies to anything that uses WoW’s IP, including unofficial servers. And while we’ve looked into the possibility – there is not a clear legal path to protect Blizzard’s IP and grant an operating license to a pirate server.
Brack’s letter restates that running a classic server is not something that could be accomplished with any sort of ease, although the discussion is brought up repeatedly in the development team. “We explored options for developing classic servers and none could be executed without great difficulty. If we could push a button and all of this would be created, we would,” he writes. “However, there are tremendous operational challenges to integrating classic servers, not to mention the ongoing support of multiple live versions for every aspect of WoW.”
There’s been this thing in the news over the past two weeks about a certain (illegal) fan-run vanilla World of Warcraft server and its untimely demise. You may have heard of it. Beyond the topic of emulators, the shutdown of Nostalrius has certainly revitalized the discussion over the place for classic MMO servers, player demand for them, and their profitability.
Jagex chimed in with its own opinion, and considering that the studio runs its own classic server with Old School RuneScape, you could rightly assume that it is very much in favor of the concept.
“We can now say that releasing Old School RuneScape was one of the best decisions we ever made,” Jagex said. “Since Old School RuneScape’s launch in February 2013 we have seen just short of seven million players log in with over two-and-a-half million becoming members.”
You can read the rest of the studio’s argument regarding classic MMO servers after the break.
Lineage II formally launched on Steam this week, complete with a fresh-start server, Zaken. There are even server firsts rewards, mostly pirate-themed goodies, for those who zip their way through content on Zaken, both in PvE and PvP.
More intriguingly, at least if you play Lineage II in Europe, is the fact that the game’s EU handlers are finally launching the classic Lineage II server players voted for last spring, lining themselves up to compete with some of the illegal emulators floating around the internet. “Lineage 2 Classic” will cost 10 euros a month — yes, it’s a subscription-funded service — and feature a hardcore ruleset. “Intense and hardcore levelling in Lineage 2 Classic will make every level a real achievement,” declares the website. “Incomparable fun for all the fans of classic hardcore!”
Pre-orders are open now; we’ve included info on the two pre-order packs below.
The drama over the proposed Darkfall classic server continued this weekend. Aventurine CEO Zad Mehdawi removed his original post on the subject, saying that it was not “approved for posting” and put up an amended one hinting that the company wouldn’t be averse to handing off the project to a third party.
Mehdawi briefly lists why a classic server will not help the company: “Bringing back the original Darkfall is unfortunately unrealistic and impractical. There is no doubt that it was a great game, which had its chance but unfortunately stopped being viable and had to end.”
It’s a dark day for those who were hoping to see a return to the classic era of Darkfall. A few weeks ago, player enthusiasm for a pre-Unholy Wars server had prompted Aventurine to investigate the possibility of creating such a world. Now the studio says that it has decided to kill the project and redouble its efforts on Unholy Wars.
“We realized, despite the initial excitement, players that played [Darkfall Unholy Wars] would not return to play [Darkfall Online],” said CEO Zad Mehdawi. “Players were getting bored with the DFO game after a month or two. It is too hard to get into the game. The sad truth is that this is not a game that anyone would play for years. Our dream is to create games that people will remember for many years to come.”
After NCsoft solicited the Lineage II playerbase last month about whether or not it wanted a classic server in Europe, the community has answered with a resounding “Yes please!” The studio said that far more than the required 15,000 signatures on a classic server petition were submitted, triggering the official go-ahead for the project.
NCsoft gave a broad overview of what will happen now that this has got the greenlight: “We’ve started working towards opening the server. As you can imagine, it involves a lot of preparation, discussion, testing and other complicated stuff which we cannot talk about in detail. There is still a risk that the project won’t be launched if the circumstances are not in our favour. We appreciate your efforts and your involvement in this project. You’ve shown your desire to see Lineage II Classic in Europe, and it means a lot for us. ”